Whether visiting Antarctica is on your bucket list or you’re just curious whether you can travel to this remote part of the world, you might be wondering if you can fly to Antarctica – or perhaps if there is any other way of getting there.
You can fly directly to Antarctica, though this requires chartering a flight and flights are very expensive as commercial airlines do not offer any flights. Because of this, most people fly to Argentina and then take a cruise to Antarctica.
Although Antarctica is known for bad weather, flights to Antarctica are safe, and more people travel there every year.
Scheduled Flights to Antarctica
There are no scheduled flights to Antarctica.
Commercial airlines don’t offer flights to Antarctica due to the lack of consumer demand and the absence of airports in Antarctica.
Chartered Flights to Antarctica
The most popular way to fly to Antarctica is the Fly-Cruise option. The Fly-Cruise option involves passengers flying from Tierra del Fuego to King George Island through a chartered flight.
After the two-hour chartered flight, they board a ship to Antarctica.
These chartered flights are only available as part of a package. You cannot book an individual seat on a chartered flight. These chartered flights are short, only 2 hours.
The chartered flights are also booked in conjunction with the cruise, so your flight is arranged by your cruise operator.
The Best Routes to Fly to Antarctica
There is only one major flight route for Antarctica. But, you can choose whether to fly from Punta Arenas, Chile, to the Antarctic interior or by flying from King George island.
98% of travelers fly from Punta Arenas to King George Island, and less than 1% fly directly from Puntas Arenas to the South Pole.
Most people fly to King George island since it offers unmatched scenic views of nature and wildlife.
Travelers who fly directly to Antarctica usually have specific goals like research, monitoring or are on one-time expeditions.
Recently, companies in Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina have offered alternative routes to Antarctica.
But, these routes are not popular with tourists, and most are still directed through Punta Arenas.
The Best Time to Fly to Antarctica
The best time to fly to Antarctica is during the Antarctic summer. The Antarctic summer starts in November and ends in March.
There are up to 24 hours of daylight during the Antarctic summer, and the local wildlife is most active.
Another benefit is that travelers are least likely to encounter problems with sea ice. Most Polar Circle cruises happen during these months too.
Conversely, Antarctica is the most difficult to fly to during autumn and winter.
The Antarctic coastline is near impenetrable during both seasons due to heavy ice and temperatures below -60 degrees Celsius.
Virtually all cruise ships leave Antarctica by April for this reason.
The temperatures drop rapidly, with daylight becoming scarcer and sea storms intensifying. Only scientists and film crews travel to the continent during this time.
It Costs a Lot to Fly to Antarctica
A flight to Antarctica costs an average of $30,000 or more. This figure also includes the cost of amenities and vital supplies, like hotel costs and survival gear.
Since there are no commercial flights to Antarctica, a private chartered flight is the only option.
Private chartered flights are expensive because you, and your travel companions, will be the only passengers.
Since flights to Antarctica cannot be separated from the travel agency you’re using – and there also aren’t many of them – there aren’t many ways of reducing costs.
At best, you can select a slightly different package from a different travel agency, but costs will still be high.
Flying to Antarctica isn’t Dangerous
Flying to Antarctica is actually relatively safe.
Thousands of tourists fly to the ice-covered continent every year, with no complications. Yet, people have some safety concerns about flying to Antarctica.
Antarctica has dangerous weather. Arguably, Antarctica has some of the world’s worst weather, with fast and intense winds.
It’s not unusual for tourists to wait up to two weeks in Puntas Arenas, Chile, before the weather clears for going to Antarctica.
The fast winds of Antarctica are dangerous for planes, especially chartered turboprops, which most Antarctica cruise operators use.
Landing in Antarctica can sometimes also be challenging. A weather phenomenon called ‘whiteout’ is especially hazardous.
Whiteout is when it becomes impossible to distinguish landmarks and contours in a snow-covered Antarctic landscape.
Famously, in the 1979 Mount Erebus disaster, Air New Zealand Flight 901 crashed into Antarctica because of whiteout.
Related: Are Small Planes Safe?
How Long it Takes to Fly to Antarctica
The average flight from Puntas Arenas, Argentina, takes 50 minutes during clear weather conditions to reach Antarctica.
If the weather conditions aren’t optimal, it can take up to 2 hours to reach Antarctica.
A scenic flight over Antarctica from either Australia or New Zealand takes an average of 6 hours and 14 minutes, depending on the type of plane used.
Thousands of People Fly to Antarctica Every Year
74,401 travelers visited Antarctica during the 2019/2020 Antarctic summer, between October 2019 and April 2020, according to the IAATO (International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators).
The IAATO is responsible for nearly all tourist flights to Antarctica.
They’ve recently reported that visits to the ice-covered continent have increased rapidly every year, sometimes doubling in a year.
The IAATO reported that of the 74,401 visitors in the 2019/2020 Antarctic summer, 731 travelers flew to deep-field destinations, 4,679 participated in air/cruise travel programs, and at least one flight from King George island was combined with a Peninsula cruise.
There are also separate military and scientific flights to Antarctica, but these flights are not included in IAATO statistics. Figures on military and scientific flights are also not publicly available.
In conclusion, yes, you can fly to Antarctica.
The only way to fly directly to Antarctica is through a private chartered flight. These chartered flights happen almost exclusively between the Antarctic summer from November to March.
Although these chartered flights are expensive, they’re relatively safe. The other option is the Fly-Cruise package.
The number of travelers to Antarctica is also increasing every year, so it might become a significant tourist destination in the future.